The story of Jesus walking on water is told in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and John. Each account tells most of the event, but leaves other parts out. I am sure they had excellent spiritual reasons for this.
I thought it might be interesting to “piece together” verses from all three versions. All are from the New International Version of the Bible. In order to make the story flow better, I have omitted parts of some verses which would be repetitive if left in. I indicate this by inserting a series of dots. At the end, I will add a few comments about this amazing miracle.
Just before walking on the surface of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus had just performed the miracle of feeding five thousand people with a small amount of bread and fish. Let’s read about it:
“After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force…” (John 6:14-15)
“Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.” (Mark 6:45-46)
“When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified.
Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (Mark 6:47-50)
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
“Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:28-31)
“And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:32-33)
.” …, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.” (John 6:21)
.” …They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened. (Mark 6:51-52)
“The next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realized that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples, but that they had gone away alone. Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.” (John 6:22-24)
“When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there. As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed.” (Mark 6:53-56)
Notice that at the beginning, Jesus “made his disciples get into the boat”. Maybe they didn’t want to leave without Him, or possibly Jesus thought they would cooperate with the crowd that wanted to make Him King of Israel by force.
Mark says the disciples were headed for Bethsaida, and John says they set off for Capernaum. They could have been going to both places, one after the other, because the two towns are close to each other.
Mark says the disciples were in the middle of the lake when evening came (6-9 P.M.). Jesus walked out to them about the fourth watch, which is between 3 and 6 A.M. Therefore, Jesus delayed several hours before going out to the disciples and rescuing them from the heavy wind storm. I think this happened because He wanted them to try and save themselves first, before saving them. This kind of sounds like it has deep symbolic meaning, don’t you think?
Some skeptics say that Jesus didn’t perform a miracle, because in the original Greek, “on the water” and “at the water” are translated from the same word “epi“ (Strong 1909). What they don’t say is that the disciples’ boat was three and one half miles from shore, in the middle of the night, and there was a storm raging. They also can’t explain Peter getting out of the boat and walking on the water.
Finally, some Bible scholars say that when Jesus spoke to the disciples on the boat, His words were not translated well. Most translations write His words as "It is I; don't be afraid." In the original Greek, the words are “ego eimi”, better translated as “'I am he, be not afraid;' (Young’s Literal Translation)
Saying “I Am He” would be a claim to Christ’s divinity, because those are words God used when He spoke to Moses from the burning bush in Exodus 3:14:
“God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'" (NIV)
This makes a lot of sense to me because, after all, He was standing on top of the water in a storm. It is very appropriate to claim divinity at that point. The reply of His disciples also makes more sense when His words are translated as “I AM He”.
…. “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:33)